Fresh off signing a five-year, max contract extension with the Indiana Pacers, 23-year-old Paul George has an opportunity this season to take a step forward. A step much farther than the ones the fourth-year player out of Fresno State has taken before.
Rewind to May when the Pacers began their playoff run against the Atlanta Hawks. George opened up his playoff run with a triple-double performance against the Hawks, dropping 23 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. From that point up until Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals vs. the Miami Heat, it was apparent George would have a large impact on the outcome of the Indiana Pacers' season.
But it wasn't just playoff statistics that measure George's greatness in those three series. George showed he had a clutch gene throughout, and especially in the Miami series. The most notable instance, hitting the deep game-tying three-pointer with 0.7 remaining in the fourth quarter.
George also showed in the playoffs that he wasn't just a pretty jump shot. Paul physically outplayed LeBron at his own game at times—beating him off the dribble and getting to the rim.
It became evident that the country was watching a superstar rise in Paul George vs. Miami. But it wasn't just the playoffs where George excelled. As ESPN Stats and Info's Twitter account pointed out, George was one of four players last year to average 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the regular season:
George's size, speed and versatility provide something that the Pacers haven't had in a long time—a potential superstar.
Looking at this season, Pacers fans hope that George's contract extension doesn't end up looking like the one Indy gave Jermaine O'Neal several years ago. George will need to solve the minor inconsistencies in his games that, though rare, still showed up from time to time. In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, George only produced seven points in a blowout loss to the Heat. And while the entire team played poorly, a superstar is one who can rise above even extenuating circumstances.
But Pacers fans have known for a year or so what the nation is now starting to notice—Paul George is a damn good basketball player. And the fact that he's 23 means this is going to be a fun decade for the Blue and Gold.